April 10, 2017

Review: Life After by Katie Ganshert

Where does one find words for emotions that have none? That would be my exact tangle of feelings after finishing this story a mere thirty minutes ago. It is a rare moment that I close the final pages of a book and immediately feel pressed to get my thoughts down on paper (or, in this instance, in type on a computer). This is one of those exceptions (obviously). The moments (and emotions) I could suppress no longer, they must be written! So here I am, struggling to find adjectives for you. What I am finding? Is this: for those grieving, for those broken, for those who don’t understand, for those questioning “why”, this story is for you!

There may seem a simplicity to the plot, yet vast amounts of emotion and chaos rest in these pages. It is not an easy story, but it is certainly a powerful one. I could recount the details (I won’t), I could wax glorious on the characters (I might), I could try and put words to the meaningful things that only my heart understands at this moment (yep, pretty sure that’ll happen #sorrynotsorry).

In our limited, human understanding of grief and death, the questions that come, the thoughts that circle, these are common things I’ve decided. It’s natural to wonder and wish and regret even a tiny bit. There is always much to be experienced in the After. Whether that After follows a temporary or a final goodbye, it doesn’t matter. The thoughts must be thought, the feelings must be felt. And so it goes with the lone survivor of a train explosion, our main character, Autumn. She is searching for...something. And in these words describing her journey to finding it, the reader discovers a few answers themselves! Or at least, that was my experience. :)

The beautiful thing about this story, for me, wasn’t entirely the quirky characters, each with their own stories inside them (although they were certainly pretty awesome! :). While they are a wonderful part of this adventure, even when they have a small part to play in the overall big story, they each use even their limited page time to create a huge, final impact, and it was those very moments that struck me the most. This story isn’t just Autumn’s journey, or Paul’s journey, it’s also Reese’s, and Tate’s, and Claire’s, and Ina’s, and many others. It’s all these individual characters and their individual moments that mesh together into one giant, glorious journey!

I admit it, I sat down with book in hand, prepared to only skim through the prologue and save the rest for later. Only it didn’t work out that way. At all. (And so it goes, fellow readers, am I right?? ;) The first few paragraphs gripped my heart and before I knew it, I was tearing through the chapters, so anxious to find out how things were going to go for all these beloved characters! And then…

And then!

I reached pretty near the end and a certain few truths hit my heart like an explosion. As one grieving, they were words of truth I needed to hear. They reached into a crack in my heart that I didn’t really even realize was there and burst it open, blowing everything to smithereens in a mere second! A gentle and beautiful reminder that I had forgotten. I literally wept, my friends. And it’s been a great while since a fictional story has affected my emotions to that degree. It was a moment of softening and love. So as I sit here struggling for words (and writing so very many anyway, huh? ;), all I am ultimately left with is this glorious feeling of happy. Of a heart so filled with relief, comfort, grace, and HOPE. This is a hopeful story, friends.

So often I strive to be practical when writing a review, but I know I am sadly missing that mark with this one. All I can tell you is it hit my emotions in a way that I was unprepared for! It was an emotional journey from beginning to end and if I could tell Ms. Ganshert anything, in this very, single moment right now the truest words I have for her are these: Thank you. Your story resonated with me and I am incredibly grateful I had the privilege to read it.

**I received a complimentary copy via Waterbrook & Multnoma. All opinions expressed are my own.

"I guess that’s what life is, though, isn’t it? A whole bunch of little moments that don’t seem significant or life-altering at the time but when you look back..." She shook her head. "I don’t know. They become the most profoundly beautiful things."

Why...why those people...why that train...why her. But maybe she'd been asking the wrong question. Maybe comfort wasn't to be found in the why. Maybe comfort was to be found in the who. A God who wept.

Sometimes, people didn’t set out to hide anything. Sometimes, the walls came up so slowly that they weren’t noticed until it was too late. Until the ugly was so wretched and foul that the walls had to stay in place.

"You know what I think? I think the second we find ourselves asking "Who am I? is the second we become the perfect person for the job."

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